Represent Together: A Messaging Guide for Wellness and Safety

Power California
7 min readMar 13, 2020

This guide is published by the Million Voters Project, a coalition of 7 statewide and regional community organizing networks: AAPIs for Civic Empowerment — Education Fund, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, California Calls, Coalition for the Humane Immigrant Rights, Orange County Civic Engagement Table, PICO California and Power California.

Purpose of Messaging Guide¹

In moments of crisis, new narratives, new policies and new social behaviors are established. This can cut both ways — the 2008 recession imprinted the idea of “The 1%”, while Hurricane Katrina led to mass privatization of public institutions in New Orleans. How we act and what we say in this moment can help define perceptions, assumptions and policy preferences in our communities, state and country. But we must act quickly, in coordination and at scale.

In addition to acting with compassion and urgency around immediate needs, we must address the insidious rhetoric that will undermine our long-term shared goals: Redistribution of Wealth, Expanding Democracy, Reshaping the Role of Government to Serve the People, Repair and Restore our Relationships with Each Other (across race, class and gender) and with the Planet, Build Community Power.

In a moment of crisis — especially one centered around easily transmitted infection — the messages we must disrupt are rooted in xenophobia, racism, NIMBYism, and individualism. More than ever people will be susceptible to fearing “the other,” and without a counter-vision and narrative, dominant media and certain public figures will actively or inadvertently stoke that fear. Further, decades of testing demonstrate that fear evokes a fight or freeze response, with the latter the far more common response. In order to inspire people to demand more and better, we must thread an increasingly fine needle between articulating the severity of this moment and providing hope that we do indeed have solutions and, by coming together, can demand they be put into place.

The antidote to fear is not despondency or self-isolation, not anger or blame. The antidote to fear is love. Our message should be rooted in the values of interdependence, mutual solidarity, shared purpose and collective action. Because when we are all in for all of us, we can create the world we envision.

Use of Messaging Guide

These messages should inform all communications: public events, social media posts, one-to-one conversations, small meetings, letters to the editor, etc. They can be used to “clap back” at messages that blame immigrants or Asians or are dog-whistle in nature. They can be used to call in people whose initial response is individualism at great cost to others. They can be used to inspire agency when people are paralyzed by fear or confusion. These messages promote cross-racial solidarity and a vision for our country and state. They can be used in parts as you see fit, keeping in mind the core values and words to embrace and words to replace (based on research about what works). These messages should absolutely be used to promote specific policy demands, e.g. increasing SNAP benefits, moratorium on evictions, expansion of Medicaid, etc.

Key Narrative

Whether helping our neighbors during an earthquake or opening our homes to them during a wildfire, Californians show up for each other, no matter what we look like, where we come from or where we live. We know that our families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer and healthier when we join together and demand proven solutions to enable us all to weather a crisis and ensure our wellbeing.

Getting ill reminds us that at our core we are all human and vulnerable. This is a moment that we must stand with and for each other across our differences and against anything and anyone who seeks to divide us. We pull through by pulling together, like we have done in the past.

That means we demand the care and paid time everyone of us needs, no exceptions. We condemn those who peddle us lies and misinformation in order to further divide us so we don’t join together to demand proven solutions like universal healthcare, paid time to care and protections that keep us in our homes and ensure we make ends meet.

Now is the time for us to unite across our differences and make policy choices that help every-day people — not a few wealthy corporations. As individuals, we can wash our hands, avoid unnecessary travel and check in on our friends and neighbors. As a united force, we can demand our government do everything it possibly can to protect everyone’s health, no exceptions.

Now is the time to go all in for all of us. Now is that time to rise to the occasion, represent for all of us and demand our leaders do the same.

Talking Points (also in response to fear-based messages)

1. We get through this together. (response to individualism)

  • Our own health depends on the health of the person next to us, and the person next to them. Ensuring others can access care is how we take care of ourselves.
  • Our families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer and healthier when we show up and represent for one another in moments of joy and celebration, and of illness and crisis.
  • We pull through this by pulling together.
  • This moment calls on us to go all in for all of us.
  • No one stands alone. We are one beloved community.

2. This is a time for unity not division. (response to racism, othering, dog-whistles)

  • Anyone who seeks to use this health crisis to divide us, scapegoat Asian Americans, immigrants or anyone else does not represent us.
  • At a time like this, some seek to turn us toward individualism and fear of each other in response to this viral outbreak. But as [Californians] we know that our own well-being is tied to everyone else’s.
  • Now more than ever, this virus has shown us that we are dependent on each other, and no matter where we come from, what we look like, or how much money we have, we know it’s time to pull together and take care of one another.
  • By standing together and making sure each and every one of us — whether Black or white, Asian or Latinx, native or newcomer — has the resources and information we need, we can prevail through outbreak. It’s time to represent for all of us.

3. Protecting our most vulnerable makes us stronger. (response to inequality)

  • We are all better off when we are all healthy — that includes the most vulnerable among us.
  • Any one person’s wellness depends on everyone else’s. Whether it’s people with chronic health conditions, people without shelter, our undocumented neighbors or people living in detention, we must ensure all of us can access the care we need.
  • Everyone has a right to full healthcare, regardless of their insurance or immigration status

4. When we decide to resource local government to protect and care for our communities, we protect and care for ourselves. (response to role of government)

  • Local public health officials, healthcare providers and public school teachers and administrators lead us in coordinating services, sharing information, and protecting public health. Local governments need immediate and significant resources to do this work with and for us; it’s past time we ensure Californians can have what we need by providing the people who care for, inform and educate our communities the resources to do their jobs. From the vaccines required to treat an outbreak to the testing necessary to know who has what, healthcare and paid time to recover has to be for everyone or no one can be sure to get and stay well. When any one of us is blocked from the diagnoses and treatments we require, all of us are vulnerable to unnecessary complications from illnesses we need not spread. By coming together, we can create a fair and comprehensive healthcare system that treats us all as equal and ensures we can get a stay well.

5. Time to take care of all of us — not just corporations. (response to protecting people and not relying on capitalist market “solutions”)

  • No matter what you look like, where you live or how much money you have, when you’re sick, getting care without going bankrupt is everyone’s first priority. But for too long, we’ve let a powerful few divide us to pad their own profits by making life and health a product for sale. We must rewrite the rules to ensure everyone can access the care that we need.
  • As the crisis disrupts our daily lives, including our ability to work, pay rent and send our kids to school, we need to ensure working people can make ends meet, not hand tax breaks to the richest 1% and finance bailouts for corporations.
  • The choices our government makes now to help us weather the outbreak of the coronavirus can also set a better course for the future of our communities. Now is the time for us to unite across our differences and make policy choices that help every-day people in pursuit of a safe and thriving [California].
  • We commend business leaders who are stepping up to prioritize the public good that will keep us healthy and working to ensure that their workers will be able to take care of their children, eat well and stay in their homes. We call on our government to do the same.

¹ This guide was co-created with Anat Shenker-Osorio, using the Race-Class Narrative framework. Appreciation to her message advice and input.



Power California

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